Tieck, Ludwig

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Tieck, Ludwig (1773-1853): German Writer.

Ludwig Tieck was born in Berlin to a master rope-maker, who exposed his first-born son to great drama like Goethe, Johann Wolfgang’s Götz von Berlinchingen, Schilller’s Die Räuber (The Robbers), Shakespeare, and Cervantes. In 1782 Tieck attended secondary school, the Friedrichswerdersche Gymnasium, where his work with his teachers, his future brother-in-law Ferdinand Bernhardi and Friedrich Eberhard Rambach, led to his first literary works. The chapter “Ryno” appeared under the pseudonym Ottokar Sturm in Rambach’s 1792 novel, Die eiserne Maske (The Iron Mask).

Tieck’s father discouraged his son’s talent for the theater, and after 1792 Tieck studied theology in Halle, followed by Göttingen and Erlangen. His friendship with Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder, son of a judge, opened social doors and strengthened his desire to become a writer, which he undertook by moving to Berlin in 1794. Tieck had success with his 1795 Peter Lebrecht and experimented with the novelle-form, of which Der blonde Eckbert is a good example. Tieck frequented Henriette Herz’s, Rachel Levin’s, and Dorothea Veit’s salons, where he met the Schlegel brothers in 1797.

Of Tieck’s connections, which included Novalis (Friedrich von Hardenberg), Schelling, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph, Jean Paul, Goethe, and Fichte, Johann Gotlieb, his friendship with the philosopher Nicolai, Christoph Friedrich was the most successful in furthering his career. Under the pseudonym “Straußfedern” Tieck wrote stories for three years until Nicolai grew negative towards Tieck’s ironic tone. In 1799 Tieck moved with his wife, Amalie Alberti, whom he married in 1798, and daughter Dorothea to Jena, where he published Romantische Erzählungen (Romantic Stories). He wrote his most well known plays during this period, like Der Gestiefelte Kater (Puss in Boots, 1797), Blaubart (Bluebeard 1799), Die Verkehrte Welt (1799) and Prinz Zerbino (1799). Der Gestiefelte Kater typifies his romantic irony. He draws on French folk literature, which the ‘audience’ rates as a distasteful form of theater, but the ‘poet’ demonstrates that the public is more interested in entertainment than tasteful theater. Endeavoring to break the ‘illusion’ of theater, this play lampoons the writers and critics of the 1790s.

After leaving Jena in 1800, he traveled to Hamburg, Dresden, Rome, Prague, Berlin, and England, and in 1801 he finished his translation of Don Quixote. In 1802 Tieck’s new patron, Graf von Finckenstein, brought him to Ziebingen near Frankfurt an der Oder. In 1807 the family moved to the estate of his friend Burgsdorff, who was probably the father of Tieck’s second daughter Agnes. After the duke’s death in 1818, his daughter (and Tieck’s lover) Henriette von Finckenstein brought the Tiecks to Dresden. Tieck worked on his translation of Shakespeare with Schlegel, which his daughter Dorothea finished with Wolf Graf von Baudissin in 1833, and published Abendgespräche (Evening Conversations) in 1839. Tieck worked gratis as director of the court theater, and his time in Dresden brought other losses, namely the death of his wife, sister and daughter as well as his own failing health.

When Friedrich Wilhelm IV became King of Prussia in 1840, the year Tieck published the novel Vittoria Accorombona, he invited Tieck as dramaturge, offering him an official title and summer use of Palace Sanssouci, which the writer accepted in 1842. During the trip to Berlin, Tieck suffered a stroke. Despite producing famous romantic comedies, his job as dramaturge was not successful, since the bourgeoisie suspected his fealty to the king, and Tieck’ dislike of contemporary theater (Iffland, August Wilhelm, Kotzebue, August Friedrich von). However, his production of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1843, accompanied by Mendelssohn’s score, brought him acclaim.

When the Revolution of 1848 happened directly under his window on Friedrichsstraße (near today’s Checkpoint Charlie), the once admirer of the French Revolution turned against it. Tieck died on April 28 after a long sickness. After her father was deceased, Agnes Tieck, his daughter, burned many of his writings.

Further Reading:

Roger Paulin, Ludwig Tieck, a literary biography, 1985

Wendy C. Nielson